Mechanical Engineering

Program ● Interactive ● Grades PK-2

Mechanical engineering is one of the oldest disciplines of engineering. To this day, many of the inventions from Ancient Greece, China, and the Middle East continue to be used today with few modifications. Mechanical engineers are responsible for designing parts of machinery, both on small and large scales, and maintaining these systems to achieve optimal performance. Some examples of a mechanical engineer’s responsibilities are:

  • Research new ways that parts can be designed to achieve maximum efficiency.
  • Work with power producing machines, such as generators, turbines, and engines.
  • Design tools that engineers in other disciplines can use to complete their tasks effectively.
  • Be familiar with technical and manufacturing sales processes.
  • Have administrative or managerial skills to oversee production facilities and/or workers.
  • Develop and test new ways to produce products.

Widgets and Gadgets

The Junior Mechanical Engineering classes introduce our youngest engineers to fundamental concepts of energy, materials, and movement. Through open and focused exploration, students explore and construct their own roller coasters, catapults, cars, and more.

Introduction to Mechanical Engineering

In the introductory lesson, students will explore the field of mechanical engineering and discover what engineers in this field do. They will learn that mechanical engineers invent, design, and build all kinds of machines, some as simple as a bike lock and some much more complex, like the engine of a jumbo jet! Students will work together to design a marble contraption machine guaranteed to produce many giggles and grins!

This lesson has been used as a camp lesson.
Camp: Power and Energy (link)
      Lesson Name: Introduction to Mechanical Engineering

Catapulting Marshmallows

It’s not a bird, it’s not a plane, it’s a flying marshmallow! During the final Junior Mechanical Engineering activity, students will learn about the design and physics of a catapult. They will create a basic catapult using a spring-style clothespin, a craft stick, and a plastic bottle top to launch a large marshmallow at a target!

This lesson has been used as a camp lesson.
Camp: Medieval Defense (link)
      Lesson Name: Catapulting Marshmallows

Eggcellent Drop

Packaging design and construction will be explored in the Eggcellent Drop activity. Students will learn about forces that will and will not crush an egg. They will work with partners to design a vehicle that will attempt to protect an egg from a one-, three-, and six-foot drop.

It's a Breeze

In the It’s a Breeze lesson, students will investigate basic properties that make a sail boat function. They will create a sailboat from a cardboard juice box. Later, they will have the opportunity to sail their boat down a vinyl gutter “river” to see if their boat picks up more speed than when sailed without a sail.

Marble Roller Coaster

Students will have a blast exploring the basic mechanics of roller coasters during this lesson. Student pairs will design and construct various marble roller coaster tracks. They will experiment adjusting the height of the start of the track to achieve various results, including a loop! By the end of the lesson, they will be familiar with gravity, potential energy, and kinetic energy.

Rolling Rambler

During the Rolling Rambler activity, students will construct a model of a car using a toilet paper tube and other household items. They will learn about the car’s wheel and axle system. And they will explore the principles of speed and acceleration as they test-drive their Rolling Rambler on different inclined surfaces.

This lesson has been used as camp lessons.
Camp: Wings, Wheels, and Sails (link)
      Lesson Name: Rolling Rambler and Roads
Camp: Engineers Under Construction (link)
      Lesson Name: Rolling Down the Highway

Let's Make Toys

In the Junior Mechanical Engineering: Let’s Make Toys classes, our youngest engineers will be introduced to fundamental concepts of energy, materials, and movement. Students will explore and construct six different toys throughout this unit, including spinners, magical boomerang cans, wind-up whirligigs, and more.

A-Maze-ing - PILOT

Students identify the characteristics of gravity and properties of acceleration through the manipulation of inclined planes in this lesson. Students get the opportunity to design a straw maze that will have various inclines, testing how the degree of angle impacts their marble, ultimately hearing the resounding plop sound as their marble reaches the plastic cup finish line in the least seconds possible.

Bobby Blink - PILOT

Get ready for the EFK concert series with acoustic tunes resounding from the musical toy, Bobby Blink. In this lesson, students learn how various pitches are created by vibration. Although Bobby Blink might not be the next orchestra instrument, engagement in the Engineering Design Process will lead students to make up fun tunes on an instrument using Bobby Pins!

Boomerang Can

During this lesson, students will learn about the basics of kinetic and potential energy by constructing a magical Boomerang Can. This toy uses stored energy to return to the students after being rolled away on a flat, smooth surface.

This lesson has been used as a camp lesson.
Camp: Power and Energy (link)
      Lesson Name: Boomerang Can


Students will create a fantastic buzzing, spinning toy during the fifth lesson of this unit. They will learn that vibrations often create a noise. In this case, the vibrations between a rubber band and index card make a silly, buzzing noise sure to elicit giggles.

Climbster - PILOT

In this lesson, students use gravity and friction in getting a paper climber to the top and then bottom of an inclined plane. Student’s truly experience an “A-ha” moment, as they learn how to perfect the see-saw motion needed to get their Climbster to climb up the elevated line and then back down to the finish line.

Foos-Tastic - PILOT

It is true that the right amount of force is essential for an accurate kick into the goal, and in this lesson students get to create a Foosball toy that allows them experimentation with administering the right amount of force. Predicting the amount of force needed on the clothespin player, should lead to student understanding of how equal force will be exerted on the marble. Students will have fun competing to see how can score more goals!

Good Vibrations Guitar

Pull out your lawn chairs and get ready to enjoy an evening of acoustic melodies. Well, maybe not yet. During the Good Vibrations Guitar lesson students will continue learning about sounds produced from vibrations. They will assemble a cardboard box guitar and experiment with various pitches produced by plucking rubber band “strings.”

Ooze Diffuse - PILOT

Students create a fantastic oozing oozeball that is inserted into a lever. The concept of how the amount of force depends on the distance from the fulcrum is explored. Students get the opportunity to make a slime ball, apply force at differing distances on their self-made lever, observing the ability for their oozeball to ooze

Pop-Itz - PILOT

Students create a toy that catapults various weighted objects, learning first-hand how the greater the force on an object the greater the change of motion. Through this development students explore the job of Mechanical Engineers and the field of Mechanical Engineering.


In the introductory lesson, students will explore the field of mechanical engineering and discover what engineers in this field do. They will learn that mechanical engineers invent, design, and build all kinds of machines, including many toys they play with every day! As students build and test a Popper toy, they will learn that the greater the force upon an object, the greater the change in motion.

A newer version of this lesson has been released for Pilot as Pop-Itz
This lesson has been used as a camp lesson
Camp: Medieval Defense (link)
      Lesson Name: Celebrate Victory 


Students will explore the properties of spinning objects during the third lesson. They will build spinners with a variety of household objects. By the end, they will understand certain properties that help a spinner to gain enough momentum to rotate for the longest amount of time.

Super Scanner - PILOT

Watching changing colored light prisms created from mirrored reflection can provide the same viewing enjoyment as images seen on electronics do! Students will fully engage in the Engineering Design process as they design, build, and improve the elements of their very own Kaleidoscope!

Swing, Scoop, Score - PILOT

Many toys have endured time, in this case the cup and ball, continues to provide an exciting challenge for students. Newton’s second law is simply represented through students’ varying the length of the extending yarn piece and weight of the bead of their toy. How will these changes effect the process of swinging, scooping, and scoring the bead into the cup?

Terrific Turbine - PILOT

Students create an exciting duplication of a wind turbine. They get to see how varying air flow effects the turbine turn; predicting and improving how to get the most efficient air flow in operating their Terrific Turbine toy.

Whirligig - PILOT

Students explore how kinetic energy is transferred to potential energy in this lesson, creating a toy that has an element of tension generated from a wound rubber band on a spinning straw. The spinning motion developed is a great example of clock-work mechanical motion, and definitely fun for young engineers to wind and test.

Widget Spinner - PILOT

With the Fidget Spinner there is a great opportunity for students to become familiar with Newton’s Law of Inertia. This lesson has students creating, predicting, and testing the change in motion due to adding unbalanced weights to their self-created take-home Widget Spinner.

Wind-Up Whirligig

In the Wind-Up Whirligig lesson, students will further investigate basic properties of motion, including kinetic and potential energy. This lesson provides a great glimpse into the wonderful world of wind-up toys!

This lesson has been used as a camp lesson
Camp: Power and Energy (link)
      Lesson Name: Wind-Up Whirligig 

Zippy - PILOT

Zip, Zip, Zip right down the zip-line! In this lesson students’ self-designed Zippy gets to travel down the inclined plane of a parachute cord. Students get to predict and test how the distribution of weight effects the acceleration of Zippy down the Zip-line. Which student's Zippy will reach the end of the zip line first?


Animation Station

You’ll have a hard time finding a child who has never seen an animated movie, but very few if any have thought about how those movies are made. Animation engineers work with artists, computer programmers and others to produce our favorite animated movies. During the second day of inventor’s workshop, we’ll explore animation engineering and design our own tools to help make pictures come alive.

This lesson has been used as a camp lesson
Camp: Inventor's Workshop (link)
      Lesson Name: Animation Station 

Ding-Dong! Pizza Delivery!

Oh no! The princess needs a new wagon to expand her pizza delivery business. Students will design and construct their own delivery wagon for the princess to continue delivering pizzas. Then they will identify the purpose of different components of their covered wagon.

This lesson has been used as camp lesson
Camp: Twisted Fairy Tales (link)
      Lesson Name: Ding-Dong! Pizza Delivery! 

Knot Your Normal Ladder

Rapunzel’s mom has cut her hair, and now the prince needs to find a different way to get up the tower to visit her. In this lesson, students will explore the mechanics of knot tying and how force and friction work together to make a knot work. Then, students will construct their own smaller version of the knotted rope ladder that the prince created to help him visit Rapunzel in the tower.

This lesson has been used as camp lesson
Camp: Twisted Fairy Tales (link)
      Lesson Name: Knot Your Normal Ladder 

Make Like a Tree and Leaf

Eek, run! Students will help Kate escape from the giants by constructing a getaway vehicle for her. Students will explore the importance of axles while creating their getaway car. They will also design their own sail to give an extra boost of wind power to help Kate get a head start.

This lesson has been used as camp lesson
Camp: Twisted Fairy Tales (link)
      Lesson Name: Make Like a Tree and Leaf

Rain, Rain, Go Away

Rain is a peaceful sound in the forest and the forest plants and animals need rain to survive. Today, we’ll reverse engineer a rain stick and create our own design to simulate rain. Then, we’ll talk about protection from the rain and work as material engineers to test different fabrics to see which ones will be best for us to use when we build our very own ponchos.

This lesson has been used as camp lesson
Camp: Camp Kelvin (link)
      Lesson Name: Rain, Rain, Go Away

Robot Wind-Up

Inventors gain inspiration from their observations. In this first day of the Inventor’s Workshop, our young engineers observe a wind-up toy to discover how it works. After brainstorming ideas, our young inventors head into the workshop to design their own robot wind-up toy. Students conclude the day with measurement activities designed to help them analyze and evaluate their designs.

This lesson has been used as camp lesson
Camp: Inventor's Workshop (link)
      Lesson Name: Robot Wind-Up

Tinker Box

Students will pack their own tinker box equipped with tools to help them engineer and invent new tools and objects. Sometimes, even when presented with the right materials, it can be difficult to come up with an idea or even know where to begin, so today, students will create their own engineering idea cubes and listen to a story about a little boy wasn’t quite sure what to do with his idea. Today is meant to be an open, and creative exploration of students’ ideas and inventing new things using the Engineering Design Process.

This lesson has been used as camp lesson
Camp: Inventor's Workshop (link)
      Lesson Name: Tinker Box

Who's Making All That Noise?

Shhh! The Billy Goats’ hooves are too loud and will wake the Troll! Students will explore the world of sound while they test a variety of materials to identify the best sound insulating material to cover the Billy Goats’ hooves while they cross the bridge so they will not wake the troll!

This lesson has been used as camp lesson
Camp: Twisted Fairy Tales (link)
      Lesson Name: Who's Making All That Noise?